Smalltown America


Jetplane Landing Fourth Studio Album Reviewed By Culture Northern Ireland

"Releasing an album after six years of silence is a calculated risk, but Jetplane Landing did their sums a long time ago and decided that money doesn’t matter."

The foursome from Derry~Londonderry accrued a stock of admiration from fans in the years when it seemed like they might – along with kindred spirits like Reuben or Hundred Reasons – make it over the top and find deserved break-­even success.

All three released albums in 2007 but, despite their drive and invention, they couldn’t survive at a time when most of the money was being flung at pop-punk and the melodic, marketable side of post­-hardcore.

So while Jimmy Eat World recently played at the Limelight in Belfast as part of an international tour stretching from Austin to Amsterdam, the avowedly DIY Jetplane Landing completed a modest eleven ­gig trek of the UK and Ireland, ending with a celebratory homecoming in the same venue.

But again, it’s not about the numbers – the reception in Glasgow, London or Dublin proved that Jetplane’s fans have taken the best of the new songs straight to heart, singing along with "Walls of Derry" or "Magnetic Sea" as if with old friends. Amidst limber riffs and designed ­to­ inspire lyrics, the band’s sincerity still shines.

The song "Beat Generation... Ha!" is particularly wry and confident, with frontman Andrew Ferris going in to bat for overlooked American poet Gregory Corso. 'Hey, maggots! Get off my turf,’ he shouts, ‘I wrote sh*t like this f*ckin’ years ago!’

The rowdy mantra applies equally to bands like Jetplane Landing who, with older songs like "Acrimony" or "Brave Gravity", made a stronger contribution to their genre than the youngbloods who cruised in on the tailwind. Here the guitars rip like circular saws before a full­blooded chorus tells moaners to take their oil: ‘To suffer for art is the dullest part.’

Referencing other artists doesn’t always make for great entertainment, though, as shown later by "The Lightning Bird Blinded by Moonfire". Named after the Miró painting, the lyrics suffer from a lack of clarity that isn’t risked in the direct "Broken by People" or sloganeering "Cheapskate Tricks for Worn Down People".

It’s more of a stumble than a sprain, but it’s also a reminder that when it comes to mixing rock with hip-hop there’s a world of difference between Dog Eat Dog and Rage Against the Machine. Far more interesting is "Walls of Derry", which goes further than just namechecking Shipquay Gate or black beer.

Featuring a riff that would make Walter Schreifels grin, the melodic latter half makes a convincing case for the idea that even in a city surrounded by stone and steel, forgiveness can be granted and wounds can be healed. "My Radio Heart" is just as uplifting, celebrating ‘one last blast of wild joy', while "Cortez & Columbus" sketches a wistful and emotive picture of departure and discovering new worlds.

Doubtless the world has changed since Jetplane Landing last recorded, with many of their peers and fans having given up on post-hardcore as a young man’s game. In the interim, the commercial successes seemed to trade on the genre’s least exciting traits, with benign middle w­eights and whoa ­choruses dominating where brutal grooves and articulate aggression seemed more satisfying for fans and players alike.

With Jetplane Landing, comparisons with trailblazers like At the Drive ­In remain overstated – today the accolade perhaps goes to a band like Letlive – but they have made music where others have made excuses, becoming an influence and inspiration without chasing the various managers, synergists and ten­percenters who populate the traditional myth of success in the music business.

By taking ownership of their creativity in a sustainable way, they give the lie to the notion that effort leads to rewards. 'Don’t Try' shows that the effort is the reward, and they’ve made it whether you like it or not.